Nobody wants to be the student who braves bad weather or dangerous road conditions to get to class on time — only to discover classes have been canceled and the campus has been closed. Freshman Jaley Smith said that could have been her during recent winter storms. She didn’t come to class one day because of bad weather — by her own choice, not because she knew classes were canceled.
“If it wasn’t for me not wanting to go, I probably would have come up here only to find we don’t have school that day,” Smith said.
That’s a communication problem OCCC Police Chief James Fitzpatrick would like to remedy.
“The department is constantly striving to improve the campus alert network to be more efficient in reaching students on and off campus,” he said.
Currently there are six primary ways in which the police department can notify students and staff of important messages: the electronic bulletin boards on campus, campus overhead speakers, messages displayed on classroom phones, overriding warnings on school computers, and personal email alerts.
“In cases of extreme emergency, our patrol cars are equipped with public address systems that we can use to make announcements,” said Campus Police Officer Jimmie Watts Jr., referring to direct threats to campus. If there were fast-approaching weather like tornados, or a dangerous person on campus, officers could notify those in the parking lots and in the open areas near the buildings.
Since July 2010, OCCC has offered the Campus Alert System that includes the text alert feature to students. It is extremely beneficial – to those who know about it.
Occupational Therapy Assistant student Jessica Wolf admits she wasn’t aware of the text alert program and didn’t know how to sign up for the service.
“If it weren’t for an OTA phone tree, I wouldn’t have known about the recent school closures at all,” said Wolf, illustrating the benefit of direct contact via text message.
Other secondary communication tools, such as social media, require students to check in. Fitzpatrick said police dispatchers update the Twitter feed for the OCCC Parking page often and efficiently. The Public Relations and Marketing department provides additional services that include updates to the school website and OCCC Facebook page.
While the department continues to improve the system, students need to be aware of the outlets that will provide information that will directly affect them:
1. Sign up for text alerts through the OCCC website. From the home page, scroll to the bottom and select “Emergency Announcements,” then sign in with your MineOnline information and provide your cell phone number.
2. Check your OCCC email regularly
3. Watch for updates to the school website, Facebook page and Twitter accounts Although winter weather might be over, the promise of spring also brings the threat of tornado season. It’s always good to be in the communication loop.